South West Wales

Cruise to sail from Briton Ferry's Brunel Dock

Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the outer dock at Briton Ferry
Image caption The dock was built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in the 1850s

A docks built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel is to welcome its first small cruise ship for more than 60 years.

Next month the Balmoral will sail up the Neath river to the Brunel Dock at Briton Ferry before embarking on a day trip across the Bristol Channel.

Work is ongoing to regenerate the site which dates back to the 1850s.

Around £70,000 has been spent preserving the Brunel Tower and landscaping has taken place with the aim of eventually creating a marina.

A campaign to save the dock, which closed in 1959, dates back almost 40 years.

In the early 1990s with the construction of the M4 bridge, the whole site was under threat with plans to fill in the whole of the inner and outer basins, demolish the tower and walled entrance.

A preservation order was secured thanks to the campaigners and intervention of the Welsh Historic Monuments agency Cadw

Image caption In the 1870s over 2,500 ships used the port in just one year

The Brunel Dock Trust was formed in 2005 with the aim of improving the site.

Secretary Huw James said: "At it's height in 1870 over 2,500 ships used the port in one year - it was mainly coal ships but they had the odd passenger cruises arranged by the Sunday schools and working men's clubs."

Although the Balmoral visited in the 1980s, next month's trip to Ilfracombe will be the first time a passenger cruise has used the dock in over 60 years.

"This is quite a coup for Briton Ferry - they approached us and at the moment it's a one off but they hope if this is successful to use it again," added Mr James.

He said the trip would coincide with the 175th anniversary of the Great Western Railway - another of Brunel's great achievements.

"It will be fitting that the ship will sail from the Quays Wharf next to the Brunel Dock outer entrance, celebrating 175 years of work by Brunel and especially his work on the Neath river and the floating dock at Briton Ferry," he said.

Built in 1949, the Balmoral provided a ferry service to the Isle of Wight.

It will depart from the Neath Port Talbot council owned quay on 28 August.

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